One thing that I really triggered by is being shrieked at. I’d rather be bellowed at than subjected to that kind of nails-down-a-blackboard torture.
I’m battling my 7 year old on this habit ATM; trying to embed the understanding that “When you use a normal voice, it makes me feel more like helping”.
Another more benign habit I’m trying to imprint in his brain is ‘put your own stuff away’. I’ve been working on this for at least two years and there’s no great wins to report yet.
🙋♀️ Who else feels like their child just ‘doesn’t listen’ or ‘doesn’t learn’ a particular skill or habit?
Whatever we’re trying to instil; be it ‘self-responsibility’ (boring!), resilience or emotional self-control; progress can be painstakingly slow…
However, there’s a VERY good reason, and it’s happens to all of us.
When our kids reach an age where it’s reasonable to expect them to ‘do more’; put their shoes away, prepare their own meals., etc; it’s not just a case of “It’s your job now…”
Because in the 2, 5, 10, 15 years up until that point, it hasn’t been, and all that time their brains have been repeating and rehearsing that story.
They may not consciously be thinking ‘It’s not my job!’, but because it hasn’t been – until now – that belief is subliminally programmed into their brains.
If it’s more complicated mindset stuff we’re trying to change; ‘can’t do’, ‘I’m afraid’ etc; those worries or negative beliefs which are programmed in won’t just ‘uninstall’ simply because our child’s decided they want to overcome them.
Beliefs and behaviour patterns can be very deeply wired-in to a brain from a very early age. They basically ensure brains react as quickly as possible. In other words, the brain is a very lazy organ!
Once it learns to behave, act or think in a certain way, the neurological ‘pathways of least resistance’ become established, so the brain can work to maximum efficiency without wasting energy.
In other words, change of any kind is hard work, for any brain…
…Especially unwanted change. Why would a brain that doesn’t really welcome the change work hard at it? Hence why teaching our kids to put their pants in the laundry themselves can feel like marathon training…
We hear a lot about neuroplasticity; the ability of the brain to reconfigure itself throughout life; and it’s wonderful! It means that brains can learn new beliefs, behaviours and attitudes at ANY age.
However, what we hear less about is that there’s a good degree of mastery involved. The stereotypes of switching on the brain as simply as a lightbulb is largely inaccurate.
Because, while learning is NOT difficult for most brains, UNLEARNING is!
Long after we’ve been saying;
“How long have you known how to do this?”
“How many times have we talked about this?”
“Why do I have to keep saying the same thing over and over?”…
…your child’s brains will try to use those lazy, well established pathways first.
In these frustrating moments, don’t focus on what your kid is refusing to do, or struggling to learn.
Think about what they have to UNLEARN first! Remember, you’re re-programming a brain here!
In all honesty, even for a fairly easy and straightforward task that a brain practices regularly, and where the child wants the change, three months is possible – but still optimistic.
If it’s behaviours, mindsets or attitudes you’re trying to change, it can take 1-2 years before you can expect to see the new behaviour etc., operating as the ‘default’ position… If there’s an underlying vulnerability, maybe 2-5 years.
Don’t be disheartened through. Frustrating as it may be, I don’t say any of this in the spirit of struggle.
I say it because-especially in our world of immediate gratification and not having to wait for much at all- we really owe it to ourselves, and our kids, to slow down and set a realistic pace.
It may take a while before we see the changes we’re creating, but change IS happening.
Just like seeds sprouting under the soil long before we see growth above the surface, every single uphill struggle is slowly changing the wiring inside your kids’ heads, one synapse at a time! So keep going…
What are you giving your child-or yourself-permission to re-programme at a slower pace?!
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